Re: [Usability] Reasoning behind default panel setup?

David Tenser wrote:
Thanks to Alan for the introduction, and to Evandro for the history and
background of the default panel layout. I think I'm ready to continue
the discussion (or, rather, actually start it). :)

The reason why I'm posting about all this here is because I was
recommended to do so by gnome-panel developer Vincent Untz. I see three
general problems with the current default panel layout:

1. Icons are very small on a 24px panel.

Many icons, especially application icons, generally look better when
displayed in a larger size. The current layout, using two 24px panels,
makes everything on the panels very small. This also has the drawback of
making icons harder to target.

On the other hand, and especially on a small resolution, you can have more small icons than big ones. You won't be able to put 10 32px icons between the menu and the notification area, especially if you remove one out of the two panels.

Besides this, I often see KDE users using a special applet to put two ranges of icons in their kicker. This mean they have two (shorter) ranks of 16px icons (this allow them to have a larger window list). So I doubt "bigger and more beautiful" icons make the point here.

Alan Horkan and Evandro mentioned Fitt's law as one of the reasons for
using two panels. While I agree that the corners are important to
utilize, Gnome actually only makes use of two of them. The other two are
wasted by the time/date applet and the trash can.

As Kalle says, I'm not sure the time/calendar applet is a waste of space, I click on it regularly to see the datum or for various date-related reasons.

* Easier to spot, recognize, and click on icons. Also, better looking icons.

But worse looking everything else. I don't think you'll increase the size of the icons from the notification area for some practical reason (as KDE has a big panel but small notification icons). I don't think you'll increase the font size of the menu or the clock. So you'll end up increasing the size of the whole panel to have cleaner icons, that's good, but you'll have a lot of ugly margins everywhere. How many icons are there by default ? 3 ?

* More vertical space available for applications.

But less horizontal space. Add the width of the menu, the volume control, the clock, the network applet(s), a few icons and the notification area, and that won't let you much space for the window list. That is even worse for small res.

Given that you assume that the average user does not use the virtual desktops, it probably means that the average user has lots of windows on his main desktop, right ? So you need a lot of horizontal space to display all those window buttons. The window list does not support multiple row yet, afaik, despite it could be fixed. But it would be more difficult to click on the second row because it wouldn't touch the border of the screen.

I agree that vertical space is critical on widescreen, but horizontal space is critical too for small screens, perhaps even more than vertical space. You have to make a trade-off, therefore.

* Familiar environment for ex-Windows users (let's not forget them --
there are a lot of them), and even KDE users.

And those users are always looking after solutions because of the waste of horizontal space. Just look at the multirow-launchers applet from KDE, or the button of the windows quick bar to see hidden icons. Just look at the way windows “groups windows”, and so on.

Indeed, I know two friends of mine who are using KDE, and adopted the gnome-style panels, because they found it more practical and less space-wasting.

* Less clutter and confusion, by removing some of the default applets.

There is not so much applets in the base config imho.

* It would not include the workspace switcher. While multiple desktops
is a very useful feature, it's not something "normal" users ever use.

Perhaps you should educate the users instead of hiding the functionnalities they don't use. Users are not used to multiple desktop before switching to linux since it does not exist on windows or macos. Anyway they are not used to every Gnome specifities at all at that time.

More seriously, when I show Gnome to new people, desktop switching is something they like and they appreciate much, despite they don't use it very often when they just surf on the net with MSN. I don't know the idea of removing it is good.

* It would not look crowded just because two panels are merged into one.
The date/time applet only displays the time by default now, making the
current top panel even more empty. That and the workspace switcher sums
up to a lot of horizontal pixels saved.

If you want to keep the gnome menu, you'll end up with about 400 pixels for the window list.

I'd be happy to do a simple mockup of how the proposal would look like
if anyone is interested. Thanks for reading this far and hopefully I
have been clear enough about the suggestions.

I'd be really happy to see your mockup, and especially if you could address the issues about the small width of my screen.

So, to do it short, I think that making the panel(s) bigger is not a good idea (unless you have a panel with only icons). I also don't know if it is really possible to keep an usable window list if you put everything on one panel.

Perhaps there should be some "template" layout, either you choose the widescreen layout, or the normal screen layout, on the first start. Anyway I don't think it's a good idea.

By the way, did you consider the idea of using a vertical panel ?

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